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A year after Marc Lépine killed 14 women in a shooting rampage at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, Pelletier learned that her name was on a list of potential victims found among his effects. "The Montreal massacre has changed the lives of many people, as it haunts many more, mine included," says Pelletier, who won a Gemini Award in 2000 for best writing on the Lépine piece. "From the time I found my name on Lépine's hit list, I have felt the need to get inside the man's head, find out what could possibly have motivated such hatred."
Journalists may feel their actions inadvertently trigger tragic events. David Studer recalls the time, just before Christmas in 1992, when the fifth estate had evidence that a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been on the take, accepting bribes from a Montreal gangster. The day before the show was scheduled to air, the RCMP officer shot himself in his office.
Not surprisingly, a shocked Studer and producer Julian Sher wondered whether the fifth's investigation was responsible for driving the man to his death, and had to make a quick decision how to handle it. "It's horrible that it happened," says Studer. "You have to think of his family. But we decided we needed to find out more information." What they learned was that the Mountie had killed himself shortly before he was to go to an appointment with officers conducting an internal investigation into the same charge, which was most likely what drove him to suicide. "Every Christmas for years after that I thought about his kids," says Julian Sher.
"Our stories affect people's lives," says Studer. "I remember asking myself, if I was the target of this show, how would I be feeling? But at the same time, it was important that a criminal had suborned a member of the RCMP. So we told the story, although we tried to be respectful and we updated what had happened at the end of the program. But it really does bring home that you're dealing with human beings. Even if they've done something wrong, they're still just human beings."